Diversions

The Inspiration Behind Hannah Richardson’s “Chasing Rainbows”

Even if rainbows are made of some tears, they’re also made with a lot of light.

It is my view that from the time we are young, society fills us with illusions of grandeur as to what expect from the universe. At four for example, we are read “Harold and the Purple Crayon” by our well-meaning parents. We are told that the universe is ours to make. We are encouraged to color outside the lines. We make a mess.

We spend our time the way we want to. We choose the friends who we like to play with, (except for the occasional annoying kid who picks his nose our mom’s mutual friend makes us hang out with). We decorate forts so that we can sleep comfortably underneath a sky of fluffy blankets and fairy lights we are so proud to have constructed in our all-too chilly basements. We are basically just mind-numb and happy-ish.

By ten, we are reading the enchanting tales of Hans Christian Anderson and JK Rowling.

We are learning all about the potential of the world we will experience when we grow-up. Honestly? So far, things haven’t been all that spectacular. We’re waiting for the Cinderella moments, and they’re just not here yet. Rather, life feels more like a school-bus ride. In other words, it’s long, it’s filled with a lot of people we’d rather not hang with, and is heading to a rather pointless destination. Still, we’ve got eight years to go! The kids on the Disney Channel are all about thirteen, and they seem to be pretty darn happy. Let’s hold out for being a teenager, and all will be cool.

By thirteen, we’re getting cynical. Middle school is one big pool of insanity.

We’d looked so darn forward to these days, and it just isn’t what we expected. We weren’t ready for girls to be wearing booty shorts and hot red lipstick. We weren’t ready to hear about birth control and condoms. We weren’t ready for this crazy divide between those who look like fully fledged adults, and those still stuck in that disgusting puberty era of either a). really skinny and short or b). developing in the wrong places at the wrong time, (aka. widening before lengthening).

Right now, things are tough and sadly, those we would have become friends with in 5th grade are now looked at with scepticism and judgement. That nice girl who wears her hair in braids and we wouldn’t have hesitated to play four-square with in elementary? Well, now she’s risky. Is she worth it? Still, once we get to high school, things will be different. We will all be able to take the classes we want, figure out what we’re going to do with our lives, and of course, stop growing so awkwardly. Things can only go up from here.

At sixteen, we think the dream of college is our last hope.

We eagerly consume college brochures adorned with pictures of white-teethed smiling students sitting on benches next to sidewalks and street lamps, yellow and orange leaves delicately adorning the walkways. It’s our last chance at finally getting to fill our lives with the things we so craved as four-year-olds. We want to do what we want, be around people we like, and live in an environment that will make us fulfilled.

Unfortunately, competition is at an all-time high. Popular kids are crying that they need to join a club through which they can pay $300 fees for every “competition” they enter. The National Honors Society kids are running around like maniacs participating in community service, begging homeless shelters or hospitals to accept their requests to work for a few hours. The potential IVY league kids are under increasing pressure from themselves (and their parents!) to get straight A’s.

The only escape now is social media, through which we can watch glamorous stars dazzle our screens with their shimmering ball gowns. We imagine that one day, we will get to be like them. At Homecoming or Prom perhaps, we’ll walk down the stairs, and everyone’s heads will turn as we look like Cinderella or at least make people laugh like Jennifer Lawrence falling down the stars (relatable).

Okay, so this is obviously a glass half-empty way to look at things. Of course, life is what you make of it which is the point of my song. It’s important that I explain this background so that there’s some context.

Almost exactly a year from today, (this would have been October 8th), I came home from school miserable. My sophomore year was not going well for a variety of reasons, (many of which have not gone away), and this filled me with a great sense of anger.

I didn’t understand all these happy people around me with their friends and boyfriends and beautiful lives that I didn’t have. Biology was killing me, I barely had classes with my friends, and it felt as though I was drowning under never-ending responsibilities.

On the outside, I was a dedicated singer who knew what she wanted to do with her life and was constantly chasing after her dream, I was totally lost. I didn’t know if I’d be able to handle the constant rejection I was receiving and incredible amount of mean-spirited people making life well, life. What if my dreams didn’t pan out? Would anyone find me valuable anymore?

chasing rainbows
All these terrible, fifteen-year-old thoughts were swirling in my head, and then suddenly came the song of my lifetime, “Chasing Rainbows”.

I sat down, and it came in an hour. First the piano chords. Then the melody. Then the lyrics. Then all those beautiful little orchestrated pieces that make a song feel…like a song. The mandolin, the fiddle, the echoing guitars. They just showed up out of nowhere. I had no one to thank besides perhaps God who allowed me to somehow convey all this awfulness into one composition that other people would understand and appreciate.

When talks of an actual album started a couple weeks later, I was skeptical. Hadn’t I done this a couple of times to no avail? Wasn’t I better simply pitching the song rather than releasing on yet another album as an artist? Heck, when I first had the song listened to, I was told it was “too slow to be marketable”. Ouch. Still, once I was given full financial leave (read: a really generous person offered to fully pay for my expenses), I was all for an album.

Over the next several months, I worked by butt off to make the album a reality.

The amount of work that went into the project…it’s almost untranslatable. Although someone else was paying the bills, which I’m eternally thankful for, the responsibilities never ended. All the promotion, press, album art, event planning, social media, writing/co-writing, production talks, everything was put on me. Those duties combined with the typical school, clubs, family, and god-forbid, a social life became a lil’ insane. That said, I was making something I knew was going to be amazing. Something I was going to be incredibly proud of. Something others would be able to listen to, and get some joy out of. Therefore, it was worth it.

Despite some bumps in the road, (we got bed bugs from the Best Western in Nashville, I got threatened by someone who claimed I used their trademarked word in my song, and physical CDs were not ready for my CD Release Party), all went about as smoothly as it could have. I say all this with a weary smile, considering the amount of work that was done over those ten months. Some things were out of my control, and occasionally didn’t go according to plan. But hey, I’m alive, and things are alright!

So, where is life now?

Well, I’m writing this on a plane on the way to Colorado where I will be performing. In other words, life is pretty cool. This isn’t a “look at me and how my sob story turned to flying around on a jet”. Nah. That’s what all those books/movies/media are for.

Rather, I’m simply a real girl who worked hard to create something good and is now rewarded by having complete strangers say they love it.

From the woman who told me the song helped her finally cry after a divorce, to a young girl who said she was going to play “Chasing Rainbows” in her talent show on the ukulele, to school friends wearing “Hannah Richardson’ t-shirts in my high school school’s hallways, it’s just been so surreal to watch people saying thank you.

Instead, I need to thank them for allowing me to chase my rainbows. Even if rainbows are made of some tears, they’re also made with a lot of light. It’s the people who have been so incredibly supportive that have made chasing the impossible totally worth it, allowing me to be one of those kids at heart who has finally figured out what she wants to do, who she wants to hang with, and where she wants to end up. I am forever blessed, and grateful to all you leprechauns out there sharing your gold hearts, to support this geeky lil’ red-head who just wants to paint the world in technicolor and most definitely color outside of those lines.

Hannah Richardson is a sixteen-year-old, Pennsylvanian...